Short in Supply

Olatunde Ajani, busy with no apprentice
Olatunde Ajani, busy with no apprentice

Several factors account for the progressive reduction in the number of artisans in Nigeria

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  May 20, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

ABOUT two year ago, Lanre Oluga’s Larex Clothing, a fashion designing outfit in Ikeja, was a hub of activities. Aside many customers coming and going, he had a retinue of apprentices who had enlisted to learn the art and craft of fashion designing trade from him.

Today, Oluga’s shop is a shadow of what it used to be. Like a bird shedding its feathers, his apprentices are reducing by the day. Although most of his customers still patronize him, he has challenges meeting deadlines due to the shortage of workforce.

When Realnews met him, Oluga, who was putting finishing touches to some designs said young people are no longer interested in learning any trade because they want quick cash.  “I can’t explain what is happening to this generation. Young people want money but they don’t want to learn any trade that will bring that money. They prefer to steal, dupe people and engage in other types of crime that will bring fast money than learning a trade like this”.

Like Oluga, Emmanuel Olajide is another entrepreneur who has lost some of his apprentices in recent times. Olajide, who runs a barbing salon in Iyana Ipaja, Lagos, and had about five apprentices at the beginning of the year, has just two of them now. To make matters worse, one of them has been absent from work for over a week as at the time of filing this report. The development forced Olajide to put up a notice of ‘Apprentice wanted’ in front of his shop.

Corroborating Oluga’s position, Olajide who holds a diploma in business administration, said there are fewer artisans in the country because young people want quick money and consider jobs like tailoring and barbing odd. He added that many of those who are supposed to be busy learning barbing and other trades have taken to riding commercial motorcycles and other ventures that will bring quick money. “Young people are no longer interested in learning businesses like barbing and tailoring. Everybody wants something that will bring money fast so the youths consider learning a trade odd. Many of them prefer to ride bikes and do other businesses that will bring fast money”.

Youths are no longer intrested in jobs like this
Youths are no longer intrested in jobs like this

While the likes of Oluga and Olajide hinged the decline in the number of artisans on the quest quick for money, there are those who believe that the epileptic power supply and the attitudes of people towards artisans are the real reasons why young people are no longer interested in such trades.

Yinka Ajayi, another tailor in Ikeja, said the epileptic power situation in the country has forced many artisans to abandon their trade to embrace other ventures. “It is not as if people are no longer interested in being artisans but the power situation in this country makes it difficult for them to operate profitably.  Many artisans are frustrated because of the poor state of power supply. If you are an artisan and you have a shop, you can’t make much when you have to fuel your own generator and do other things for yourself. When young people see how we complain, they lose interest in the trade”.

For auto mechanics like Sule Ajani, the only reason why people are no longer interested in becoming artisans is because of the way they are treated by other members of the society, especially the educated ones. He added that because the Nigerian society values academic qualifications and white collar jobs more than handcraft, people look down on artisans and subtly discourage young people who are interested. “Nigerians value certificates and professional jobs. The moment people discover that you are not as educated as they are, they tend to look down on you. People treat us as if we are not human beings just because we are mechanics. That is one of the reasons why people are no longer learning the trade. Everybody wants to go to school and live like a big man”.

Recounting how his father enrolled him in a mechanic’s workshop after his primary school education in Ogun state, Ajani blamed parents for not advising their children to learn a trade. “It was my father who took me to the mechanics workshop where I was trained. Parents don’t do that these days because we all want our children to go to school and become doctors and lawyers.

 Ajani is right. Many young people are no longer interested in becoming artisans because of their quest for education. They would rather channel their energy into securing admission into institutions of higher learning than learning a trade. Iyke Nwaiwu, who has been waiting to secure admission into a university since 2009, says he would wait till his desires are fulfilled rather than enlisting to become an artisan. “I prefer to go to the university than becoming a tailor or a barber. With a good certificate, I can get a job that will pay me more than what I can ever imagine as an artisan.”

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